language links, ling-anth links

Language links 3/20

Every Monday, I share some of what I’ve been reading in the past week.


Did you think punctuation had no consequences? Think again.

That’s not a dumb question, innit: on the shifting uses of ‘innit.’

Writing about his native Pakistan (although of course it’s true everywhere), Dr. Ahmar Mahboob says: “We need to consider what spread of languages we have, how they function in society, what each one of these languages is able to do for us (as individuals and as a country) and then develop strategies that can enable us to support all languages in a way that satisfies the communities that speak them while at the same time giving them access to languages of power and socioeconomic mobility. Language policy is not just a political act; it is intrinsically bound to national and socioeconomic development.”

There is so much juicy stuff in this podcast on pronouns. (Note: I’ve linked the transcript; the podcast is here.) Highlights include:

  • The Gay Fanfiction Problem: what do you do when there are multiple possible hes in a sentence?
  • A 1792 proposal for 13 grammatical genders in English
  • Negotiating politeness in languages with multiple words for ‘you’

Great tips for collecting demographic data in an inclusive way.

I agree with every word of Gretchen McCullough’s advice for writing pop linguistics: avoid jargon, use the structure readers expect, explain who people are, use sources that are readable if you’re not a specialist.

 

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